chapter  7
THE COUNTRY COMES TO TOWN
Pages 12

If people were deserting the cities in ever greater numbers from the 1960s, wildlife appeared to be moving in the opposite direction. Built-up areas, conventionally characterized as urban deserts, were discovered to be thronging with foxes, frogs, weasels and dormice. Kestrels nested over the Strand and Fleet Street, black redstarts above Westminster tube station. Peregrine falcons hunted from the Post Office Tower in Swansea, painted lady butterflies haunted derelict Seaforth docks in Liverpool, a colony of morels-an exotic form of mushroom-turned up on the track of the disused Snowhill railway station in Birmingham city centre. In the winter of 1982 pheasants, woodcock and a short-eared owl were sighted, respectively, in the City of London, Holborn and the Strand. Foxes were variously reported as drinking from puddles in Horse Guards Parade, and fleeing a pursuing police car in Trafalgar Square. The growing areas of urban wasteland meanwhile bloomed with garden escapes like blue buddleia, goldenrod, Michaelmas daisies, or with more traditional bomb-site flora like yellow Oxford ragwort and the tall bright purple spikes of rosebay willow herb, or ‘fireweed’. Such wasteland received a new designation, ‘urban commons’.